Today is our final day of exploring Paris before packing to leave early tomorrow. However yesterday was a good day to explore since we had an early break in the weather. Since we did not have a chance previously to go up the Eiffel Tower because of the crowds, I decided to try a different tack. I found a tour company that will get you head of the line privileges for a price. So for a regular Ôé¼15 ticket they charged Ôé¼40 for that privilege. However Sheila balked at the steep price since she figured she could buy some clothes for that type of money. So we compromised. She went shopping and I went sightseeing.
Well, she was right. She managed to find three tops at bargain prices that she absolutely loved. I however went on my tour.
I met with the tour group a short distance from the Eiffel Tower and the guide walked us there. After a short intro, he gave us our tickets and, as promised, took us to the head of the line, past security and to the elevator doors. I couldn't help but whisper, "Neener, Neener" to the frustrated people cooling their heels in the long snaking lines. There the guide dropped us off and we were on our own.
The elevator is actually a funicular as it goes up the tower leg at an angle to the first landing; which is about a third of the way up. At that level the vistas are pretty awesome and there is plenty of room despite all the people going up there. So, I went and checked out all four sides and took lots of pictures of the great Parisian skyline including the Seine as it winds it way down the middle of town.
But that wasn't the end of it.
The ticket included a ride to the very top of the structure. After a short queue, I boarded one of four roomy elevators in the center of the tower that whisked us to the top. But even at a pretty fast clip it took just over a minute to reach the summit. Well, needless to say, the views were even more awesome! Altogether I spent two hours on the tower before descending back down to earth.
I was done way early before our agreed upon meeting time so I hopped on the handy and fast metro and went to the Arc De Triomphe for a look-see. It was a holiday in France that was celebrating Liberation Day. The day commemorates the end of Nazi occupation during WWII when our boys marched under the Arc and down the Champs ?ëlys?®es as Parisians lined the streets to cheer and celebrate.
For this occasion the middle of the Arc had a humongous French flag hanging from the middle of it and the flapping tri-color of red, white and blue was a sight to behold. There were bleachers set up and a stage from an earlier ceremony and all kinds of military were present in their grand dress uniforms. In the middle of the arc was a roped-off area where stiff soldiers at attention kept guard over a flame-lit memorial for the Unknown Soldier.
The top of the very tall Arc had been closed all day because of the ceremonies but luckily they reopened just as I got there. So I was about tenth in a line that quickly filled with a huge throng. I got my ticket and made my way to the entrance, which is a stairway of about 284 steps. I asked the attendant, "What, no elevator?" And he said, "But oui Monsieur" and guided me to the handicap elevator. (I keep telling you that God watches out for fools and old folks). The modern elevator whisked me up to the museum level and it was but a few steps to the top.
Well things don't always pan out perfectly. First of all the top was under construction so only a small portion of the roof was open and secondly, just as I came outside the wind and rain decided to start. After my umbrella turned inside out a few times I put it away and braved the elements to take a couple of pictures of the Champs ?ëlys?®es far down below. It was the only street to be seen because of the construction. Usually you can see all twelve of the streets that converge on the huge traffic circle that surrounds the Arc. There is a tunnel that goes from the Champs to the Arc. Although I did see some fools that didn't know about the tunnel that tried to dodge the traffic. Wow!
Well. I took a couple of quick pictures and got the heck out of Dodge and headed home to escape the sudden torrent.